Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GOP Warns Collins, Snowe: Oppose Health Care Or Face Primary Challenges

Now we have proof positive that the crazies grabbed control of the asylum as bullies shake down and thump – not entirely figuratively – Republicans in the halls of the US Senate.

Maine’s two usually reasonable and moderate Republican Senators – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe – spent the summer trying to find ways to support health care reform, including some form of a public option. Suddenly, they did an abrupt about-face: No public option, no non-profit co-ops, no triggers, no anything in the bill they’d previously supported.

So what happened?

“Last week, they were bombarded with calls, elevator and hallway chats, and e-mails from the RNC, the Senate leadership, other Senators, people on the party’s Senate campaign committee, serious donors,” a GOP Senate staffer explains to me Tuesday afternoon by phone.

“Basically, the message was the same” he insists. “Support health care in any form and face serious, well-funded primary challenges when they’re up for re-election.”

(As an aside, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee used to be run by John Ensign, resident of the infamous C Street Home For The Perpetually Bewildered, and best known for sleeping with an aide, hiring her 19-year old son as a “strategic consultant” to the SRCC, firing another aide who happened to be married to the woman Ensign was hiking the Appalachian Trail with, and then having his mommy and daddy provide $96,000 in “gifts” to the aides and two of their three children to smooth everything over. So we know how the SRCC operation works.)

Republicans Are Fringe

Since Snowe’s term expires in 2012 and Collins isn’t up for re-election until 2014, that seems like a long spell for the goofball right of the Republican party in Maine to stay mad. After all, Snowe received 74% of the vote when she was re-elected in 2006, a year when Republicans all over the country were being booted from office without so much as a good riddance.

“Because you’re not part of the party, you don’t know how it operates these days,” the man reminds me.

“The fringe is the party,” he says, the emphasis his. “Between now and 2012 or 2014, the goofballs can show up at every town meeting, state fair and garage door opening ceremony either one of them attends. Their life would become a living hell.”

The staffer would not let his name be used because he’s not authorized to speak with reporters, nor would the five other people who work on the Republican side of the Senate who essentially confirmed his comments. But I’ve known each of them for years, trust information they provide because each has always been accurate, and none have an axe to grind.

Calls to Senators Snowe and Collins were not returned by the time I posted this article. But I was directed to a statement on Snowe’s website that claims if, “after we have implemented landmark insurance market reforms, private insurers fail to deliver the affordable coverage Americans require” she would support, maybe, down-the-road, possibly something that resembles a public option.

That would be when? Maybe in 2066, on the millennial anniversary of Magna Carta? How many more than the 62-million already uninsured and underinsured Americans will never see a doctor, die, file for bankruptcy or go to bed every night hoping their kids don’t get sick tomorrow before Snowe and her colleague Susan Collins see the world as it really is?


In her website statement, Snowe also trots out the totally discredited notion that reform will lead “to a government takeover of health care.”

No wonder another GOP-side Senate staffer confesses to me, a touch of sadness in her voice, “Right now, I’m ashamed to be a Republican.”

Despite the fact that this same staff member gave her full-throated support to the McCain-Palin ticket and that didn’t seem to shame her, nor did George Bush’s eight years, I am willing to accept that some sort of divine intervention leading to her Come To Jesus awakening in the spirit in which she offers it. Better late than never.

Oh wait. Maybe she’s seeing the light because her brother-in-law and sister are struggling to cope with medical bills: Their 10-year old was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and there’s a constant fight with the insurance company supposedly providing coverage to pay for the child’s treatment.

I know what that’s like. I’ve been through it with my sister.

Snowe Job

I’m not sure what Snowe and Collins are up to but, clearly, it has nothing to do with what is best for one-fifth of the American population directly and the rest of us indirectly.

Sadly, the Snowe Job being pulled is totally uncharacteristic of both Senators. In the past, they’ve acted like Responsible Republicans most of the time – even when I disagreed with them. Now, they’ve become no better than the louts who got their mad on in Washington Saturday afternoon. The fear Snowe and Collins have of that small but vocal slice of the Republican Party is driving them to put their own interests ahead of those of the nation.

There is an irony to this.

Dick Cheney spent eight years scaring Americans into doing what the GOP wanted. Now, the GOP is scaring Republicans into doing what a tiny minority of lunatics want them to do and the hell with the rest of us.

It'd be much funnier if it wasn't so sad.

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